Manchester United are approaching decision time over Dean Henderson. The Sheffield United loanee has forced his way into the England squad and he will return to Old Trafford in the summer expecting some clarity over his future.
Should United move David De Gea aside and trust Henderson to be their No.1?
Yes – Henderson is ready
Manchester United have a new transfer policy to bring in young, talented, and marketable British players. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ed Woodward have one of them right under their nose, and even better, they wouldn’t have to pay a penny for him. The main issue is accommodating both Dean Henderson and David De Gea in the same squad, which is extremely unlikely to happen.
What has become clear this season, though, is that Henderson deserves his chance to take the number one jersey off De Gea at United. The Spaniard is going through another mixed season at Old Trafford with world-class saves followed by costly errors. Meanwhile, Henderson’s exposure to Premier League football has seen his profile and confidence grow as he enjoys another brilliant season under Chris Wilder at Sheffield United. His performances this season have seen calls to make him England’s first choice with Jordan Pickford’s place under threat.
Not everyone trusts stats but they give a good indication that Henderson has been by far the better goalkeeper this season. The man on loan at Bramall Lane has kept four more clean sheets than De Gea this term, partly due to being behind a miserly Blades defence. Wilder’s men have the second-best defensive record in the division with only Liverpool conceding fewer than their 24 goals. A large part of that is down to the back five’s confidence that if they do make an error then there is a good chance Henderson will get them out of jail.
Henderson and De Gea have saved the same amount of shots this season (65) but the loanee has the higher save percentage of 75% compared to that of the Spain international (69.15%). Henderson trails the likes of Ben Foster and Nick Pope when coming to catch crosses, but he has still caught four times that of De Gea (3), who has historically struggled in that area. And to top it off the 22-year-old has made more keeper sweeps than United’s current number one.
There is a certain pressure that comes with playing for Manchester United but Henderson looks capable of rising to the challenge. Henderson did make a high-profile error to cost the Blades a point against Liverpool back in September but, after receiving public criticism from his manager, bounced back by conceding only one goal in his next four outings. Some mistake the confidence in his own ability for arrogance but his journey through the divisions on loan shows that this guy just wants to play football at the highest possible level.
Henderson is on the up, while De Gea seems to have gone stale and is in need of a fresh challenge. ‘Deano’ is a crowd favourite down at Bramall Lane with his fist pumping, attitude and celebrations endearing him to the Sheffield United faithful. How Man Utd could do with such a figure to unite fans and players.
Speaking recently Henderson told the Kelly and Wrighty Show: “The big dream is to play for Manchester United one day. I’ve always had that dream throughout my life so until that’s accomplished I’ll never think I’ve made it.”
He believes it, I believe it and so should you…
"This boy is not short of confidence."
"Every day in training he wants a clean sheet."
"He's a winner and he's improving all the way."
Should Dean Henderson be England's number one? 🏴 pic.twitter.com/opO0QIIlNx
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 9, 2020
No – De Gea remains one of the best
Dave or Dean? As dilemmas go, it’s not a bad one for Solskjaer to mull over, especially since there appears to be no wrong answer.
De Gea is United’s four-time Player of the Season without whom the Red Devils would be in an even bigger mess than they are right now. Henderson will perhaps return to Old Trafford from his two-year loan at Sheffield United as an England goalkeeper after travelling to the European Championships. For Solskjaer, it’s hardly Sophie’s Choice.
The ideal scenario would be for Henderson to rejoin his parent club and serve as De Gea’s stand-in while waiting patiently for his opportunity. But that doesn’t appear to be a realistic option.
Henderson has had a taste of regular football – he’s been playing as a No.1 for the last three seasons, a year at Shrewsbury preceding two at Bramall Lane – and he’s shown absolutely no appetite to play second fiddle to anyone, even one of the world’s best.
Which is what De Gea remains. Yes, he endured a woeful run of form towards the back end of last season but playing behind some of the clowns that have passed for United defenders in recent years would be enough to give anyone PTSD.
De Gea’s dip was put into sharper contrast by Alisson and Ederson’s flawless technique but neither the City nor Liverpool keepers have played behind teams as soft or soulless as United prior to the end of last season. The chaos around City’s defence hasn’t put Ederson in a great light and the same would probably be true of Alisson if you removed the security of Virgil van Dijk.
At a time when there is plenty of other instability around United, De Gea offers some rare consistency and reliability. Selling the Spaniard – he wouldn’t sit on the bench – and bringing in a more raw replacement only adds to the volatility during an ‘important’ summer.
Henderson’s handling is sound but his timing in this instance is all wrong. And let us not pretend he hasn’t made mistakes in big games for the Blades or England Under-21s. Despite his abundance of confidence there are no guarantees Henderson would handle the far, far greater scrutiny at Old Trafford.
If he won’t wait, it should be he that is taken to market. The Whitehaven-born stopper will have two years left to run on his contract so another season on loan would diminish his value as he creeps closer towards free agency. United’s primary concern is the security of their goal and De Gea has that covered for a little while yet. Then it becomes about maximising their asset and Henderson’s value for United will never be higher than this summer.
— Pundit Arena (@PunditArena) November 24, 2019
Wade in with your view. Email firstname.lastname@example.org in time for the afternoon Mailbox…